And How Can We Get It…?
Hygge: if you try to say it you will sound like you have a fur ball in your mouth. Try pronouncing it phonetically as Hoo-ga and you’ll only get a little closer… One thing is for sure: Hygge is a concept which is beginning to make one heck of a splash on the world outside of Denmark as little by little its secret is revealed to the rest of the planet. But what the Hygge IS Hygge anyway?
I first discovered Hygge in my twenties.
Quite obliviously as I trekked all over Copenhagen selling foreign rights to Danish children’s publishers. The air pervaded cosiness. It didn’t matter where I turned. From the beautifully ergonomic and curvy work stations in the offices, to the ‘no shoes’ policies and feet rubbing comfortingly against fluffy carpeted floors.
And then there were the easy, relaxed but quirky layers of stylish clothing… garments that had the Red-Riding-Hood-essence of the forest-yet-gorgeous about them. I really can’t sum it up in one word. Suffice it to say it infused just about every type of fashion garnishing the windows and the people strolling the pedestrianised street better known as Stroget. Everybody looked as happy and warm and well, cosy (here we go again!) as the Danish characters in the books I would be shown in my customers’ showrooms. All too often sporting stripes and the kind of fabric you just wanted to wrap yourself up in and dance!
The windows of cafes screamed come on in and make yourself as cosy as the people sat smiling over their coffee and pastries (a far cry from anywhere else I had ever traveled on business where people are either permanently glued to phones or have distant looks in their eyes as they mentally add up their woes and spreadsheets, unable to properly engage in conversation).
And as for the amusement park Tivoli Gardens, my Danish client’s farmhouse kitchen, and the outside heaters in the bars fringing Nyhaven (I swear Copenhagen was the first city where I ever laid eyes on the advent of this particular invention!). Well, that took Hygge to a whole new level.
I was hooked on this vibe…
Little by little, I subconsciously – without even being aware that the concept of Hygge actually existed as a ‘thing’, except in my imagination – started to ‘cosy-up’ my own life. It soon became addictive. In a good way. But very addictive.
-I stopped dressing for high fashion, but comfort (contrary to popular belief, doing so stylishly IS possible). So much so that you will be hard pushed to find me wearing anything on my feet except Birkenstocks between April and October.
-I prioritised cake. So much so that The Cake Table took over The Fax Machine’s former perch in our office.
-I made my morning coffee last. No more snatched moments and sips between tasks. I closed my eyes and reveled in the ritual, taste and warmth of my caffeine fix. This often takes me 45 minutes if I am to exude maximum happiness.
-I made bath time a daily appointment – which isn’t to say that I no longer shower in roasting hot temperatures! – but a bath for me is luxury, bliss, sheer relaxation. And so I will take one every day just like a hippo with zingy and uplifting essential oils, thank you very much. Whereas a shower is practical, hence the military’s love of it. In and out. Done and dusted. There’s nothing Hygge like for me in that at all!
-I bake often because I love to get lost in the beauty of something new unfolding… regardless of whether it will all get eaten. That used to be my criteria when flicking through my mountain of cookbooks. It looks lovely but I can’t make this, I can’t conjure up that… because he doesn’t eat stem ginger, she won’t eat anything studded with raisins…
Sod it: if I want to make the Pavlova – despite it being impractical, messy and highly unlikely to be consumed by all at the table – I will make it. Because it puts a smile on my face and it’s pretty and I will adore the process. I’ll also tackle most of the eating myself so to hell with the leftovers. In the Hygge world, such trivialities are non-existent.
Perhaps this all coincided with my love affair of the Self-Help movement.
For actually, Hygge and Self-Help are – to my mind anyway – inextricably linked. How can they not be? Hygge IS Self-Love. As well as love for others. But its very emphasis is on being happy in The Now; the moment. Leaving external problems at the front door. Are Self-Help and spirituality so very different? Our ultimate goal is to be mindful enough so as to be be truly present in The Present. And Hygge is a fabulous way of getting there.
Because Hygge is this…
-A warm all-encompassing feeling as you stand at the drizzly window pane, snug in your Onesie, cuppa in hand.
-A board game with the kids in front of a roaring log fire, lights dimmed, smiley faces immersed in the thrill of togetherness that a simple vintage Snakes and Ladders set can bring.
-Changing into jogging bottoms and treating yourself to a good book and a cake on a Sunday afternoon… or never getting out of your PJs and reading the papers in bed… until after lunch.
-Colouring with the kids in a huddle on the sofa under the comfort of a soft fleecy throw.
-Twinkly Christmas Tree lights switched ON in the morning (with a festive classical music track) as you eat your Monday morning breakfast as a family. And ‘Oh go on then!’ you WILL sprinkle your latte with cinnammon… and you’ll stay 10 minutes longer to treat yourself to a hot, buttery, jammy croissant. Just because this is your only window of ‘family’ today. So you’ll cherish it.
Hygge is a way of life.
It’s a choice we make. To drink in these wonderful moments of pleasure, or to find an excuse (usually the ego will try to convince you that they are an inefficient use of time… there are ‘more important things on the agenda’), to let them slip by. In every minute and every hour of every day we are constantly being offered Hygge moments. We just have to make the decision to look for them, seek them out, sniff them out and be grateful for them. Even the smallest and most insignificant of moments. The robin dancing on the lawn, the daffodil dancing in the breeze. Don’t just glance at it and get back to the mundane. Wonder at it, give it your full attention. Because it’s there for you.
The wind may be howling and the rain may be pouring. Well then there’s no better excuse to dust off the CD you haven’t listened to in years, dance around the living room in your over-sized woolly cardigan and, when you’re done with that, jump from one Hygge moment to the next. You might want to embrace the warmth that is the sheepskin rug as you cosy up with a holiday brochure gazing at pictures of sunny skies. Or make a luxury hot chocolate complete with marshmallow and whipped cream… served up in your finest crockery… and why not get out that scented candle you had for your birthday but have been ‘saving for best’ while you’re at it? You know you’ll only end up using it in a power cut!
This is just an introduction to Hygge.
And by no means written by a true thoroughbred Danish expert in happiness who has eaten, slept and breathed Hygge all their lives. This is MY interpretation of Hygge. A sneak peak, a wee glimpse into how Hygge envelopes my life… and to spark some ideas as to how you can introduce more of its wonderful feelings of well-being and joy into yours.
Keep me posted!